January 24, 2021

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Sarawak invests in hi-tech aircraft to boost wildlife protection

An aircraft equipped with hyper-spectral imaging technology should be fully operational by early next year to facilitate Forest Department Sarawak in its mission to protect the forest and wildlife across the state.

The State Secretary stated that the aircraft was acquired by the federal government for the purpose of air monitoring and surveillance. While it is not yet operational, it should be fully operational by early next year, he told reporters when met during a working visit to the Continuous Monitoring Surveillance (Comos) at the hangar of Hornbill Skyways in early October.

According to the Minister, the operations of the aircraft would be run under the department via a regional-charter airline based in Sabah, Malaysia, which would also be responsible in maintaining the plan and providing technical support.

The state currently does not have pilots in the Forest Department, and thus needs those from an established aircraft agency (and this is financed) through the fund provided by the federal government, the Minister added.

On a related matter, the official commended the Forest Department for having showcased several innovations that they had been implementing. This is what is encouraged in Sarawak’s civil service. Civil servants must increase their efficiency in doing their daily tasks; thus, innovation is something that must be promoted in them to solve problems that are besetting the departments and their staff in terms of work.

The innovations carried out by the Forest Department cover ongoing monitoring and surveillance. The department’s technologies used in surveillance and mapping, help a lot in many of their operations including in the detection of illegal logging, detection of diseases and detection of forest fires.

These technologies are important because they serve to increase the operational efficiency of the department such as efficient monitoring and surveillance via the command centre without the need of a physical presence on the ground – saving time and manpower, and eventually with the data being analysed using high-technology applications, producing outcomes that are more accurate and thus, provide the department with viable information for other activities.

Sarawak investing in green technologies

In the same vein, the Sarawak government has emphasised investments towards the development of green technology and alternative renewable energy sources such as biogas from sago waste, said the Chief Minister.

The waste from the sago industry could be treated and help to ensure a cleaner environment compared to the previous practice of releasing the waste into the river and causing pollution. Among the products that can be produced from sago are for power generation, producing clean residual water, as well as producing biogas which contains methane gas, he said at the signing of a memorandum of agreement between the state-established Craun Research Sdn Bhd and a Singapore-based firm.

Craun Research has been entrusted to develop the distribution of bio-natural gas from sago waste to rural households, the brainchild of Abang Johari as an extension of the integrated sago wastewater recovery and treatment pilot plant which he launched on 23 November 2019.

The biogas produced by the sago pilot plant would be purified and subsequently distributed as a green, a sustainable and cheaper alternative source of cooking gas compared to the commercial liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), and as a start, the distribution of the bio-natural biogas for cooking would benefit the residents of Kampung Teh and Kampung Tabo in Mukah, Sarawak.

The Chief Minister stated that the research on biogas is timely and can be value-added and used by the local community both for cooking and other purposes.

Meanwhile, the Craun Chief Executive Officer (CEO) stated that from a safety aspect, natural biogas with gas methane content of more than 90% was safer to be used as cooking gas compared to LPG as methane was lighter from the air so it would evaporate faster in the event of a leakage. From an industry perspective, the project is capable of increasing the sago value chain while paving an integrated solution to the environmental pollution problems arising from sago waste.

Sago is one of the major agricultural commodities that contribute to Sarawak’s revenue, and as the leading sago producer in Malaysia, Sarawak exports sago starch produce worth between RM80 million and RM90 million every year.

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